I recently posted on my Facebook page that it's been just over a year exactly since I took my first "fine art" image. There's a fun way to organize on Flickr so that you can make an album and organize it by date taken- So I've put together an album of every fine art piece I've done since that first one- The good, the bad and the really really awful. You can see it HERE, if you like.
What have I learned in the first year of creating storytelling images? Tons. I'll share some "been there, done that" style experience with you in the hopes that you can use it.
1.Learn to use your camera in full on manual mode.
One of the scariest things about photography for me was taking that giant step into learning the manual settings of my camera. I much preferred the safety net of the auto setting, but I was finding that each picture was exposed differently and often, my whites and lighter colors were completely blown out. For composite images, this is a big deal. It is ten times harder to composite images together if they are all exposed differently. (You want each image to match so it looks seamless) Just take the plunge and learn in manual. Practice!! Nobody has to see your mistakes unless you want them to!
2. There are days and even weeks when you will feel uninspired.
The cheerleaders in the art community would have you think that "every day is an inspiration" and that you can find something to create and make beautiful every single day. I know they mean well, but they need to knock that crap off. I read the blogs and books of all the big names in fine art. They all want to preach about how easy it can be to be inspired, and how they wake up every day ready to create masterpieces and tackle new obstacles. It made me feel horrible, because I did not feel that way. In fact, there are a great many days when I wouldn't even get out of bed if someone didn't pour water on me (true story) If you are one of those people who can be inspired everyday- Good for you. I'm talking to the other 98% of artists who don't. It's okay to be uninspired. You never know what will inspire you and you can be bumping along for weeks without a single idea, then BAM! There it is and you spend the next two weeks mass producing masterpiece after masterpiece before you hit another dry spell. You know what? That is OKAY. Inspiration and Creativity are not infinite resources and sometimes your batteries need to recharge. You should absolutely let that happen. Let yourself relax and enjoy the process. If you force it, people will be able to tell.
3. Not everything you create will be golden.
Yeah... a good bunch of my stuff is crap. Pure, unadulterated rubbish. But I am blessed from time to time with a piece that I am truly proud of and will defend to the death against anyone who says it isn't awesome. Don't be afraid to create something awful. You'll learn from it. Even if the only thing you learn is not to do THAT again.
4. Critique can sting, but it's essential to growing!
I'll admit that when I joined the critique groups, I did so for the purposes of harvesting praise for my latest works. And that dream evaporated exactly .05 seconds after I uploaded my work. If you find a great group, who is truly invested in helping you grow, you will gain invaluable insight into your work and how you can improve it. They will pick it apart, down to the bones and then tell you all the places you went wrong, and if you have a really wonderful group, they might even tell you how to fix them. Sometimes, any critique at all can sting, and especially if it's a piece that you are exceptionally proud of, but those are the times when you should calm down, set your emotions aside for a moment and really look at what people are telling you. It's an asset.
5. Create it all and don't apologize.
After I did my very first fine art piece, the people on my facebook friends list freaked the heck out. They didn't understand it, it was wayyyy darker than anything I'd ever done and they took it entirely wrong.
If it hadn't been for my model Ella Paloma piping up and saying how she thought it was awesome, I might have given up right there. I am blessed and cursed with people in my life who will tell me exactly what they think and hold no punches, so when I think about making an image- a little part of me wants to wave her hands and scream NOOOO WHAT WILL THE PEOPLE THINK!?!?!? To that, I answer, "Let them think what they will, this is my art, not theirs" There is no subject that I will not touch if it speaks to me. When I finally release that image, and those people have their say, I never ever apologize. I simply thank them for their consideration, and let them know that my work is not intended to appeal to everyone. We create for ourselves after all, not the masses.
6. You will learn your rhythm through doing.
What I mean by this is that we all have a unique way of creating that will yield us our best results. When you begin on your path, you will have NO IDEA what your way is, and the only way to find it is by doing your thing and noting what works best. For instance, my favorite images are not the ones I intended to take, but what comes from the extras I took while we were out. So, from that I can deduce that I am a spur of the minute creator. The best laid plans will often fail for me, so I always throw in a few extra props so that I can create something on the spot. Another thing that I know works for me is deadlines. So I have to set a few arbitrary ones for myself now and again- with rewards for meeting them. These little bits of insight into my creative flow have come to me over many many many shoots, and now that I know what works well for me and what does not, I can adjust my workflow accordingly.
7. Success is defined by you and you alone.
I want to be successful artist. When I first began, my mind was filled with ideas of being just like Brooke Shaden and Lindsay Adler. I wanted to sell out workshops and have sponsors, and travel and get my own show on CreativeLive or the Framed Network. But that is not my idea of success, actually, it's theirs. My idea of success is simple- I want to be happy with what I create. I want to have some recognition, sure and someday I would like to perhaps teach or put out a book, but the idea of being so in demand that I get off a plane from one workshop and step onto another immediately just exhausts me. I have a full time job that pays me well, I have no need to make money from my work (it would be nice.. mind.) So I am free to create without imperative. Your idea of success will surely be different. The truth is that success is really about where you will feel content. When you will sit back and think "There! I've done it!" By my standards, I am successful.
There you go. Everything I can think of on the spot about what I've learned since I stepped on this path. I hope that I can put some things in perspective for you, if you are also beginning, or maybe further along on your path. Don't take it too seriously.
I'll finish up with another new image- with the help of my ever so patient husband Dan, and my niece Maci and daughter Eve. (The floated the boats for me!)
My Fellow Fine Artists
Tammy Zurak of Z Photog Studio | Memphis, TN, USA | Fine Art/Illustrative Photography Gallery:
Pam Korman of District Photography | Philadelphia, PA, USA | Fine Art Photography:
www.bonniealrifai.com Fine art photography
Handy Andy Pandy